Showers powered by the sun are delightful and the energy cost savings are significant. Sadly, our roof-mounted solar hot water system must come down. While the body corporate has not passed a by-law to prevent the installation of solar hot water systems, our motion to ratify our installed system was unsuccessful. At an extraordinary general meeting for which we had to pay ($1445), the vote was close, 9 in favour and 9 against. With no clear majority in favour, we now have to uninstall it or embark on a dubious, long and uncertain journey of seeking support from the office of the Commissioner of Body Corporate and Community Management, arguing that the decision was unreasonable and should be vacated (overturned).
In honour of the democratic process we plan to let the decision rest. In these uncertain times when all of our waking moments are dominated by Covid-19, we don’t wish to add further angst to any of our neighbours. We need to pull together and focus on the solutions that will end this pandemic as soon as possible.
Fortunately, the solar hot water system has found a new home. Our elder daughter and her family will soon have it installed on their roof, among their score of panels already harnessing the energy from Queensland’s super-powered sunshine.
Every other townhouse and unit in our complex has gas hot water systems and gas cookers on their stove tops. We refuse to go back to gas. We want to ride the renewable energy wave. Luckily for us there are two types of hybrid hot water systems that use the Sun’s heat source. Heat pump technology is the second type. It doesn’t deliver quite as much savings on energy bills as solar but it comes close.
Heat pumps rely on atmospheric heat. A compressor liquifies refrigerant to heat the water. The refrigerant R134a in the Hydrotherm heat pump has a global warming potential (GWP) of 1300. It belongs to the hydrofluorocarbons (HCF) family of refrigerants in contrast to the chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) families known to deplete the ozone layer. However, R134a’s relatively high GWP is concerning from a climate change perspective.
While not ideal, the heat pump is a renewable energy compromise for homeowners saddled with body corporate constraints. No common property is violated. No roof line is defiled. No body corporate approval is required. Compared to the 90% reduction to hot water bills from solar, the 70% reduction from atmospheric heat is adequate. In addition to these savings, the Queensland Government offers generous rebates on heat pumps because of their reliance on renewable energy.